A man who arrived in the UK on a small boat a week ago and was being processed at Manston has died, the Home Office said on Saturday. He became ill while at the Kent detention site and was taken to hospital, but later died.
It is understood that he arrived on 12 November and was taken ill on Friday evening.
“We can confirm a person staying at Manston has died this morning [Saturday] in hospital after becoming unwell,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
“We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to all those affected. Until a postmortem examination takes place, we cannot comment in detail, but there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that this tragic death was caused by an infectious disease.
“We take the safety and welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and provide 24/7 health facilities with trained medical staff at Manston.”
The case has been referred to the coroner and to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
A spokesperson for the IOPC confirmed they had received a referral from the Home Office after the man’s death and will now assess it to determine whether any further action is required.
The Home Office said the man was not believed to be suffering from any infectious illness. The Guardian has received unconfirmed reports that he had contracted sepsis.
Home Office sources said they are trying to make contact with the man’s next of kin.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said there would need to be a “full investigation”. “Deep condolences to the family & friends of the man who has died after staying at Manston,” she tweeted. “There will of course need to be a full investigation into this tragic case.”
Inquest, the charity that provides expertise on state-related deaths, called for an independent inquiry. Deborah Coles, its director, said: “It feels as if it was only a matter of time before a death like this happened in this completely closed facility.
“Notwithstanding the concerns about conditions and the impact on the mental and physical health of people staying there, an independent investigation is needed to hold the different agencies involved to account. Maybe this death will shock people into doing something about the Manston facility.”
This is thought to be the first death of someone processed at Manston.
The facility provides basic temporary accommodation to small boat arrivals while they undergo processing and can hold 1,000 people, with a maximum of 1,600, but was described in October as being “catastrophically overcrowded”. In recent days numbers on the Manston site are thought to have dropped to as low as 650.
Manston has been hit by a series of scandals including reports of infectious diseases like diphtheria, guards selling drugs to asylum seekers, and some new arrivals being left stranded in central London. Legal challenges are under way about conditions on the site.
Clare Moseley, founder of the charity Care4Calais, which works with asylum seekers in the UK and in northern France, said: “Our condolences are with the family and friends of this man.”
She added that the charity “continue to have concerns about the health facilities at the centre”.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Every person in Manston must be looked after with the care and attention they need so when a tragic death likes this takes place it is a matter of serious concern. It is vital a thorough and speedy investigation takes place to understand what happened and whether all the necessary procedures were followed.”